Recently, a dream of mine came true. Acclaimed author and journalist at The New Yorker David Grann (‘89) joined us in our "Narrative Nonfiction" class. Being able to speak to a writer for The New Yorker was a cool opportunity, but what made the day special was being able to sit with an author and inquire about their entire writing process. When reading, I often compile a long list of questions in my head asking why the author decided to make the decisions they made. The list usually stays unanswered. However, that particular day Grann answered certain questions I’d been eager to know, such as: what does the organizational process look like when writing about a subject laden with so much historical background? My classmates and I also asked him to talk about how he became a writer and how one knows what path to follow in such broad industry. Blanche Boyd, the writer in residence at Conn and the professor of my writing class, assigned The Lost City of Z by David Grann for us to read over spring break. Though not typically the kind of thing I read—a story about adventure, disease and death in the Amazon—I enjoyed this fast-paced tale. It made me want to ask questions.
Sitting across from David Grann, with all of my classmates, was a comfortable experience. Blanche insisted that we ask him anything and I rattled off few questions. But what stayed with me most from that afternoon is not learning how Grann organized the book’s information or how long it took him to write it. What I realized, sitting in our tiny classroom around our big rectangular table, is that after (almost) four years of college I have grown to love learning. David Grann’s visit to our class propelled me into the future and also gave me a look into the past. As a Conn alumnus, he brought us back to his days as a student in Blanche’s class, but he also allowed us to glimpse our future writing (or just living) selves. As a lifelong learner, Grann promoted the notions of failure and discovery in terms of just finding what works best for us in writing and all things.
Sometimes when I sit in class and hear something or see something or am a part of something that reminds me of my continuous pursuit of knowledge, I remember how curiosity and wonder have brought me to this point in my maturation. David Grann shared with us his life’s pursuit of knowledge (enacted through his journalism career) for only an hour and 15 minutes. But his presence and his successes were more tangible reminders that learning, for me, has become a lifelong quest.